From October 3 to 6, a determined group of antiques seekers traversed the byways and highways of south-central Vermont in pursuit of antiques, preferably antiques that were fresh to the market and in as-found perfect condition with great original surfaces, priced at under the market prices. Never mind that the odds of finding such treasures are about as good as finding a reasonably priced hotel room in Boston. That doesn’t deter the treasure seekers. They don’t let the odds spoil the pleasure of the hunt.
That goal fueled the hardy group who traveled the roads from the Weston Playhouse on the Village Green to the Okemo Mountain Resort outside of Ludlow, and from there to the Ludlow Community Center in Ludlow, and early on the next day to a morning show, the Magic Mountain Antiques Show in Londonderry, and then on to the last venue at Riley Rink at Hunter Park in Manchester Center for Antiques in Vermont.
What effort does it take to be at the openings of all five shows? Even for someone living in southern Vermont and returning home each day, it’s easy to rack up a trip of over 400 miles.
Only one of the shows qualifies as large—Antiques in Vermont, run by Phyllis Carlson and Tim Stevenson. It has 80 exhibitors, all easily reached on a single floor. But all of the shows have charm, and all offer alluring merchandise.
There were very few sales of the type seen at the neighboring shows to the east this past summer. Without the presence of 200 to 300 other would-be buyers breathing down your neck, you have time to examine the objects, ask questions, and negotiate.
There was selling going on at all the shows, most of it for items that could fit in a brown paper grocery bag, but we also saw furniture sell, some within the first half-hour of the openings. At the Weston show, two pieces of furniture sold to other exhibitors before opening, and a tall clock sold to a retail customer on Sunday, the last day of that sale.
Reasonably priced smalls sold well, and country smalls in particular moved very quickly.
Exhibitors at all five shows included well-known dealers who advertise in this and other trade papers and exhibit at shows throughout New England and part-time tabletop sellers who used to show at group shops (and some still do).
This is one wall of the upstairs room that Marc Witus of Gladstone, New Jersey, used to show a small part of his inventory. He did not have a very good show, which was not made any easier by the fact that there were no signs downstairs during the gala preview night indicating that any exhibitors were on the second floor (“When I spoke to some of the officials, they said that the people who come to the preview know that there are more upstairs”), and the hostesses serving food brought none up to them (“When I complained, a woman said, ‘That food is for the $75 preview guests only!’”).
Shown by Witt’s End, Wallkill, New York, this Queen Anne highboy from the Connecticut River valley with early red paint was 62" tall x 37½" wide and priced at $7995.
Robert Perry of Orchard Park, New York, sold this 1804 dated Pennsylvania inlaid walnut chest, 51½" tall x 40" wide, to another exhibitor. Perry did very well here. He also sold a black-painted and gold-stencil-decorated New York chest (not shown).
Peter Pap Oriental Rugs, Dublin, New Hampshire, and San Francisco, California, showed this Derbend, Caucasus, carpet, late 19th century, 3'4" x 4'6" and in very good condition, priced at $7500. Pap is a veteran exhibitor here and made news lately by being the underbidder on a record-setting $33,765,000 carpet at Sotheby’s. Pap was bidding for a client.
What sells at Weston is sparkling clean glass and china, attractive furniture with spotless semi-gloss surfaces, good lamps with clean shades, brass pieces so polished that they gleam with a life of their own, and other objects ready for immediate use.
This show is different from the others in this report in that it’s been included in the official list of “Top Ten Fall Events” by the Vermont Chamber of Commerce.
Weston’s list of benefactors, patrons, and friends in the show catalog runs to 59 names, and many of those are couples. There are corporate sponsors, food and flower contributors, and an open bar on the gala preview night, which costs $75 (one veteran attendee made the observation that the waiting line for this show’s preview night had definitely shrunk from past years as the fee escalated from $50 to $75).
There was a problem with the Weston show this year, though, and it comes from the fact that although it’s held in Vermont’s oldest professional theater, in a setting that draws an amazing 30,000 theatergoers annually, there were only 32 exhibitors this year.
There are three separate levels of exhibitor booths in the theater. This year there were awkward partially filled spaces in the lower level, some of those filled with the overflow inventory of other exhibitors. And there were completely empty rooms on the upper level, rooms that, when a play is running, serve as actors’ dressing rooms.
Those absences were glaring, leading to unpleasant experiences for the newer exhibitors, who are the very ones usually assigned to those tiny dressing rooms.
Exhibitor Robert Foley of Gray, Maine, was one of those, and he was definitely not pleased with the situation. Foley’s comments were short and not sweet. He said, “People either didn’t come upstairs, or, if they did come up, saw the empty rooms and went no further.”
Marc Witus of Gladstone, New Jersey, a veteran dealer with 40 years in the business, was also assigned an upstairs dressing room. Witus, who said that he was loath to quit on a show unless there were some really bad experiences connected to it, also said business was “beyond bad.” He’d be willing to try Weston again, he said, “But not in one of those tiny little upstairs rooms with seven-foot ceilings.”
Veteran Weston exhibitors on the lower levels had better results to report, but many of them have built up a local following of customers who return to purchase traditional antiques year after year.
Barbara Adams of South Yarmouth, Massachusetts, who specializes in Rockingham glazed stoneware and other ceramics, said the preview had been quite good for her. Lee Hanes of Hanes & Ruskin, Old Lyme, Connecticut, spotted the day after the preview, said, “There’s been a good crowd so far, and we’ve had a pretty good show.”
As at any show, sales can happen at any time. On Sunday, the last day of the show, someone bought a $28,000 tall clock from a street-level exhibitor.
John Fiske of Fiske & Freeman, Ipswich, Massachusetts, with a furniture booth just inside the main entrance, reported their show results were “average,” and then noted that, “These days, average seemed like a victory.”
Part of the problem with Weston is that the show has lost a super smart and dedicated show chair in the dynamic Patti Prairie, who left Vermont for western climates a few years ago.
Prairie seemed to be everywhere and able to do everything. As we wrote in the review of the 2007 show: “The spark plug firing the success of the Weston show is show chair Patti Prairie, who contacts potential exhibitors, plans exhibition space, and attends to the multiple details that make the show a success.”
Weston is a fairly expensive show for exhibitors to do in terms of housing. The show runs from Thursday to Sunday midafternoon and requires a three-and-a-half-day stay at a minimum, but, depending on the time needed for setup and pack-out, perhaps up to four or five nights is required. And don’t forget, this show runs during foliage season in Vermont. During foliage season, motels sell out far in advance and do not need to cut prices to draw customers.
There was one room available at an inn in the Weston area, said Marc Witus, but it cost $175 a day. He went on line early and was able to get a motel room at a Holiday Inn in Rutland, about 25 miles northwest of Weston.
The fact that organizers were able to find even 32 exhibitors to do the show and swallow those expenses in a troubled 2013 antiques economy is rewarding and says a lot for loyalty.
But the problem of filling the upstairs dressing rooms with new exhibitors willing to balance the expenses against the opportunity of reaching new customers has to be solved if Weston wishes to remain a top-ranked show.
Otherwise, it may be better to close off the dressing rooms upstairs entirely.
For more information go to (www.westonantiquesshow.org).
This copper and zinc weathervane horse is Goldsmith Maid, who set track records in the 1860’s in harness racing. It’s mounted on a 42" long standard and tagged $6100 by H. & L. Antiques, Princeton, New Jersey.
Salt Box Antiques, Sugarloaf, Pennsylvania, showed this early red-painted pine dough box from Pennsylvania; the box sides are joined with dovetails, and the turned legs end with button feet. It was $3900. The stack of boxes from Albion, Maine, (the top box is 7" across) was $3250.
Twenty years already? It seems as if it was just yesterday when Pennsylvania stoneware dealer and auctioneer Marlin Denlinger opened this show in Ludlow at the Okemo Mountain ski lodge.
Don and Pat Clegg of East Berlin, Pennsylvania, took over the show around 17 years ago and built it to its present highly polished level. The long uphill walk from the mountainside parking lot was a lot easier to do then. We hung the handicapped permit from the rearview mirror and took the shortcut to the upper restricted parking area.
The Cleggs put the now-familiar exhibitors in the same spaces they’ve had for years, the crowd gathers inside the foyer area, out of the elements when necessary, and there is usually dip, cheese, and vegetable and/or fruit offerings on tables throughout the two-level show floor.
This year, for the 20th anniversary, there were sweets galore on those tables, birthday cakes, petits-fours, and other delicacies. We missed the cheese, crackers, and vino.
There was not much else to miss here, though. The exhibitors were friendly and familiar, the merchandise was mostly moderately priced, and it was a good small show. It ran from 3 to 6 p.m. on Friday, October 4, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, October 5.
Short and sweet, comfortable and friendly, with reasonable prices and lots of sales, all in all it was just a darned good show.
For more information, go to (www.cleggantiques.com).
Missouri Plain Folk, Sikeston, Missouri, showed this 17" long working model of a 1930’s bicycle that he’d found in Kansas. Owner Tim Chambers said it was easy to imagine Almira Gulch cycling away from the Gale farm with poor Toto in a basket in The Wizard of Oz. The model sold rather quickly and reappeared at the Manchester show in Dennis Raleigh’s booth.
Dealer Steve Smoot of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, described the painted decoration on the Scandinavian wall box as “exuberant” and “flowing.” The piece is 28" long x 8½" wide with an estimated 2" high rim around the front and sides of the box. It was $475. He also had a group of colorful Navajo weavings on the outside wall of his booth with prices from $1495 to $2200. Later, we noted that Smoot had sold a pine crossed-stretcher base table with breadboard ends.
John Bourne of Pittsford, Vermont, was responsible for the rocking horse ($675) and the two German bears ($325).
Goodwin’s Antiques, Hinesburg, Vermont, offered this 31" x 42" hooked rug for $285.
This show, which is only six years junior to the senior citizen of the lot, the Weston Antiques Show, couldn’t be more different from the latter. It’s a two-day show taking place on the floors of the Ludlow Community Center. If you want to attend the 7 to 9 p.m. preview night, it costs $12. If you’re willing to wait for the Saturday show that runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., it costs $5 to get in.
There are usually around 40 exhibitors, and the two show managers, Ann Firkey and Carol Baranowski, provide a Friday night supper for all the exhibitors (one of the exhibitors told us the supper is worth at least half of the booth cost for the Friday night preview).
There’s always a crowd waiting for the preview opening, and usually a fair amount of exhibitors’ sales are recorded at that function alone.
You’d have to search thoroughly to find anything priced at over $2000 on the floor, but that doesn’t mean that exhibitors from the other shows aren’t among the group storming the floor at the 7 p.m. opening. Some good stuff at bargain basement prices has been known to surface at the community center in the past.
Here’s our recommendation. If you are in Ludlow to catch the Okemo Mountain Resort show that afternoon, why not find a friendly Irish pub (preferably one that has a Red Sox playoff game on a flat screen telly), grab a Sam Adams draft and a burger, and get ready to do the selling-floor swing at 7 p.m. one more time.
For more information, call (802) 226-7574.
This 46½" high schoolmaster’s desk was offered by Jerry and Susan Hartman of East Bridgewater, Massachusetts, for $295.
|A pair (one shown) of black-painted and gilt-stenciled chairs with bird’s-eye maple splats was $250 from John and Eileen Smart of Rutland, Vermont.|
This American Wringer Company salesman’s sample was 7¼" high and was offered for $595 by Prospect Hill Antiques, Essex Junction, Vermont, and it sold.
Liberty Hill Antiques, Reading, Vermont, brought this Queen Anne maple desk with a $3950 price tag, and the pairs of brass candlesticks running from $85 to $165 a pair. Owner Jim Mulder brought one of his specialty pieces too, a refinished heavy woodworker’s bench (not shown), and quickly sold it. “They are getting harder and harder to find,” Mulder reported.
Pewter & Wood Antiques, Enfield, New Hampshire, showed this wallpapering table, which is more than a few steps above the ordinary, with a lot of little extras in construction and decoration. Owner Barbara Boardman Johnson priced the 66½" long x 25¾" high table at $1295, and it sold quickly.
This is an old show in a new location, managed by a couple of old hands at the antique business, Bob and Mary Fraser. The Frasers have sold antiques and managed and co-managed shows from their homes in Springfield, Taftsville, Chester, and probably from other Vermont places I’m missing.
It’s not that they’ve been run out of town by the local constable or anything like that; they just seem to have a certain wanderlust and aren’t afraid of change. They ran the Bromley Mountain Show (formerly one of this group of foliage shows) until last year when the management decided that it didn’t need an antiques show there anymore.
The Magic Mountain Antiques Show opened at 8 a.m. on Saturday, October 5, and ran until 4 p.m.; then it reopened at 10 a.m. on Sunday and closed at 4 p.m. The 8 to 10 a.m. Saturday preview hours featured a continental breakfast with pastries, juices, and coffee included in the $15 price.
The 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. admission was $8, but those who brought their M.A.D. ad got a buck off.
There’s no trick to running a show in the Fraser tradition; choose quality exhibitors who sell honest country stuff, make sure the exhibitors are happy, do plenty of advertising, and handle problems promptly.
The Frasers have spent plenty of time wearing exhibitor hats, so they know what to do and what not to do.
Mary Fraser talked about the show dealers whom they had gathered for the inaugural event: “This is a great group of people; they know how to work together, so setup went very smoothly.” She also noted, “Magic Mountain never had an antiques show before and didn’t know how much work was involved, but they’ve been great.”
Would-be buyers were there in full force. Exhibitor Richard Vandall of American Decorative Arts, Canaan, New Hampshire, said that 20 minutes into the show he’d already sold four pieces.
There were 28 exhibitors scattered over two floors. The layout wasn’t perfect, but this was the first show in a new location for the Frasers, and they were quite happy to find any possible location near the other shows. Mary Fraser said, “I think this could really work out well.”
There aren’t a lot of locations in southern Vermont that have enough floor space for a show, along with parking space for customers. Schools and other miscellaneous public-supported entities are restricting the use of many facilities by non-local taxpayer groups.
It’s not a new concern. There was a stretch in the mid-1980’s when it seemed as if the big Vermont Antiques Dealers’ Association (VADA) annual show was in a different location every year, and problems popped up at every show.
It may be only an amalgam of memorable events conjured up by an aging brain, but this is the way we remember the worst-ever Vermont show’s preview night…
It was at a ski lodge on a mountainside in early August, with a chili cook-off contest taking place in tents dotted around the premises, with samples for one and all, and no restrictions on food and beverages inside the building. To top it off, while people were wandering around the show setting their cups of chili anywhere they liked, the warm-up band for Hootie & the Blowfish was rehearsing, with sound checks coming through monster-size speakers just outside the non-air-conditioned main floor.
Exhibitors should be happy with Magic Mountain. It drew quite a crowd, and there were a number of sales while we were there on preview morning, and all with none of those hard-to-remove chili stains.
For more information, call (802) 875-5944.
Dealer Paula Patterson of Westfield, Massachusetts, showed this small, only 34" wide, circa 1840 pine settle. She believed that it had been set on the maple base at a later time, and priced it at $1650.
Griffiths Antiques, Utica, New York, sold this small rocking horse to Iowa dealers who had come to Vermont to shop the shows.
The week closed out on Sunday, October 6 at Riley Rink in Hunter Park on Route 7A. The one-day show, Antiques in Vermont, took place in Manchester Center and was run by co-managers Tim Stevenson and Phyllis Carlson. This year’s show was the 29th edition. The booths were situated on one level, with easy access to both the exhibition floor and the large parking lot. There was overflow parking on the surrounding mown areas. Early admission was $12 from 8 to 10 a.m.; the price dropped to $8 for the remainder of the day, until the 4 p.m. closing. It’s a popular show as well as a great way to end a visit to Vermont. Antiques in Vermont has the largest number of exhibitors, and the short show hours mean exhibitors stand a decent chance of getting home on the same day as the show closes. For more information, go to (www.carlsonandstevenson.com).
This formal mahogany canterbury was offered for a very reasonable $285 by Steven Rowe Antiques, Cornish, New Hampshire.
Stephen C. Burkhardt Antiques, Felton, Pennsylvania, showed this $495 hooked rug (26" x 38") with great design and color sitting atop a Pennsylvania stretcher-base tavern table priced at $1395.
Tom Wesdorp, doing business as Antiques Anonymous in Millerton, New York, showed this 31½" x 23½" oil on canvas by Walter White (1876-1964) in a period frame with a label from the Salmagundi Club on the reverse, priced at $1250.
Originally published in the December 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest